It’s a pretty universally accepted truth that the older we get, the more we experience little inexplicable aches and pains. Most of the time, we just accept that this is a natural part of life and go about our day, as long as the pain is not unbearable. But while this “natural process” mentality may be right a lot of the time, there are also times when it can cause us to write off things that maybe deserve a second look.
Complaints of back pain, leg pain, or foot pain are pretty normal, and so are generally east to just attribute to a “tough day”, especially if you are a particularly active person or someone who works on their feet. But consistently experiencing these kinds of pain is not normal, and could be a sign of a problem with your feet.
It’s not unreasonable for someone experiencing pain of any kind to assume that the root cause and the area where they feel sore are the same thing, but this is not always true. In fact, problems with our feet can lead to issues all over our bodies.
If you picture the human body as a skyscraper, then the feet are the foundations. Now if you can see that the skyscraper is leaning, you wouldn’t assume that the problem is with the top floor. The issue is that the foundations are slightly off, and as you go higher, this deviation becomes increasingly dramatic. In the same way, the slightest deviation in our feet can throw off the rest of our body, changing how we stand and walk, and forcing our body to compensate for this.
There are three main issues that could be causing these kinds of problems: overpronation, oversupination, and fallen arches. Overpronation is when we walk on slightly on the insides of our feet. It may be obvious to an outside observer, or it may be so subtle that we don’t notice. Oversupination is the opposite of this, where we walk on the outside of our feet. Fallen arches, as you may already know, are when the soles of our feet are flat, rather than arched as they should be.
Any one of these issues will change how we walk and stand, likely in a way that neither we nor others will immediately notice. But our bodies will be able to detect this automatically, and may bend at the knees, hips, or spine in an attempt to stand as straight as possible. But this is akin to an architect reaching the 25th floor, realising the building is tilting by 13 degrees, and tilting it 13 degrees the other way to make up for it. Not exactly a building where you’d want to rent the penthouse suite.
How Can Orthotics Help?
After being assessed by a podiatrist, they can identify the root cause of your pain, and create a custom-made pair of orthotics. These will be designed specifically for you and for you only, to deal with the exact issue you have in precise detail. They can be hard or soft, and will be inserted into your shoes to force your feet into the correct position. This will eliminate the need for your body to correct your posture, and therefore the pain felt.
Fortunately, there are two incredibly simple tests you can do yourself right now to determine if any of these three issues could be affecting you. To check your pronation, simply stand as neutrally as you can, feet directly beneath your shoulders, and pointed forward. Have someone stand behind you, and check if the middle of your heel is directly below the middle of your ankle. If not, then you have an issue with pronation and will need to see a podiatrist,
The second test is just a matter of getting some paper, ideally a brown bag or newspaper, and laying it on the floor. Wet your feet, step on the paper, and examine the footprints. Ideally, you should see curves in the middle of the footprints that reach roughly halfway across the feet, like a crescent moon. If the damp spot does not curve like this and reaches almost or all the way across, then your arches have fallen. This is not a major medical issue, but orthotics will be required to avoid further pain or complications.
In general, people may not be thrilled when told they have to wear orthotics, but they tend to be once they actually wear them. Remember that orthotics are custom made, and so are generally a very effective form of treatment. If you have done these tests and believe you may have a problem, be sure to visit a podiatrist as soon as possible.
If you are interested in getting orthotics, be sure to read our blog on The Difference Between Insoles and Orthotics first, as many people mistakenly believe they are the same.